The mood of the Russian President Putin seems to have got corrupted. Every day I look at him on the TV screen at meetings with members of government and heads of regions to combat coronavirus and clearly see the sad expression on his face. Sometimes he listens to the speakers with intense facial expressions and seemed barely restrained, and at times, interrupting the speaker, gives guidance on measures for combating coronavirus.
I think that the mood of the Russian leader not only spoil the coronavirus. The collapsed political plans also influenced his emotional state. Let me explain.
Putin has been in power for 20 years. The Russian leader, who has previously repeatedly said that “he will not remain in the presidency until death” and “will not change the Constitution”, in the first months of this year, made statements that the country will reform the political system.
All that was said, created the impression that Putin, rebuilding the highest public office, is trying to take measures in order to protect the country and policies, as well as after expiry of the term of office and he’ll leave the presidency in 2024 (and maybe earlier).
But suddenly something unexpected happened (it was either part of a pre-prepared plan, or a result of pressure of some official and economic circles of Putin, they say, “you don’t have to leave his post”). Putin did not rule out the possibility that “if the necessary amendments to the Constitution,” it can continue its work for another two terms starting in 2024, namely, to 2036, or in other words, to his 84 years.
The first step of this “political reform” was supposed to be a referendum, scheduled for 22 April 2020.
But the coronavirus, damn it, broke the plans.
According to some Russian commentators, including this plan in Russia, there was a delay in the adoption of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. According to one version, the masters of the Kremlin wanted to hold a referendum on April 22 and April 23 to declare a quarantine, but when the danger of coronavirus outweighed, refuse it.
When this reason failed to carry out properly the celebration of may 9 Victory Day (the 75th anniversary of the victory in world war II), which are of great importance from the point of view of the international prestige of the Russian leadership, the mood has become worse.
It was a very unfortunate event for the Russian leader. After all, the political fate of Putin, accustomed to the end to put launch plans in life, now depended not only on the effects of the economic crisis and the HIV epidemic, about which nothing is known. From this point of view, the Kremlin, based on the principle “the sooner, the better”, is currently discussing the possibility of holding the referendum and the Victory Parade on 24 June, and if not, then both events can be rescheduled for September.
Undoubtedly, the socio-economic problems that arise under the influence of coronavirus and the resulting reduction in oil revenues, may complicate the life of the Russian leadership. (In yesterday’s article I tried to Express voiced assumptions about the coup in Russia, many of which are related with this.)
Coronavirus: an unknown enemy is shaken of a mighty leader
Although at first the news of the coronavirus that came from Russia, creating the impression that things are going well, soon the situation changed. For a long time Russia takes the second place after USA in the number of cases of infection.
When the situation worsened, Putin at first were almost not visible. (As you know, major leaders, not wanting to be associated with negative events, tend to pass bad news on to others.) However, over time, on the one hand, Russian society began to grow discontent, on the other — such persons as Moscow mayor Sobyanin and Prime Minister Mishustin, started off in political ratings.
The intervention of an experienced Kremlin adviser had not long to wait. The Prime Minister, who was preparing to declare comprehensive measures to combat coronavirus in mid-April, said, “It will make the President”. As for Sobyanin, who gradually began to attract attention for its efforts in the area of Russian media were running the campaign. Some Federal channels have repeatedly shown the queue formed at the entrance to the Moscow metro while checking electronic passes. One of the architects of the new draft Constitution, prepared with the aim of extending the terms of office of Putin, Senator Andrey Klishas openly challenged the mayor, saying that “the mayor is not entitled to restrict the freedom of movement of citizens.”
While those who took the lead, align, a decision was made that Putin will hold frequent meetings that are broadcast on television, and from time to time make encouraging people speeches.
However, not escaped the attention of the following fact. A leader who has unlimited powers and “single-handedly responsible for everything in the country,” largely left such a new and complex problem, coronavirus, at the discretion of the members of the government and especially the local leaders. (Russian Federation consists of 85 regions, namely the republics, regions and cities of different status).
Of course, that in the context of the expanding crisis leader requires a report from someone, if necessary, arranges reprimanded and even dismissed, could create an “appropriate picture”. (Perhaps the leaders of Komi, Kamchatka and Arkhangelsk, said goodbye to their seats at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, swelled before.) But what if the crisis will inflict even greater wounds?
Moreover, these conditions raised some questions. And how centralized federalism, presidential system? Isn’t it possible that this course of events would entail a risk of redistribution of powers in the Russian Federation?
Besides, don’t the Russian people do not expose their kings and national leaders account both for victory and for the disaster?
Besides, as local leaders and high-ranking officials, whose fate depends entirely on the President, can really put health in priority, how much accurate information they can provide? Especially when the economic downturn felt in the regions at least no less than in the center, and from Moscow is not receiving major financial support to the regions, with the exception of some areas.
The latter situation for the coronavirus and the population to distrust official statements
Despite the fact that in Russia the danger of the spread of coronavirus remains a serious, note that in recent years the situation began to change for the better. On 17 may we held a meeting on the coronavirus in Moscow, and on may 18 in Russia. Voiced forecast that the situation will improve until the beginning of July.
Most cases of infection in Russia occurred in Moscow. Followed by Moscow region and St. Petersburg. It should be added that the situation in the regions, which are located in these densely populated areas, is also critical: Nizhny Novgorod, Dagestan, Sverdlovsk, Krasnodar, Rostov-on-don, Kaluga, Tula. As of yesterday this “top 10” areas where coronavirus is raging the most.
Also, pay attention to the reaction. First, there was “virtual meetings”, organized on the Internet some of the opposition. Then it became known about the real rallies against the measures to combat coronavirus in North Ossetia. An outbreak of coronavirus in Dagestan, where, as it turned out, there is a great shortage of equipment and facilities, has complicated the situation.
In addition, according to the website “Turkrus.com” conducted a survey showed that the level of support of quarantine measures in Russia from the population record has fallen and amounted to 23%. While the percentage of those who believe it is necessary to relax the restrictions, is 64, those in favour of more tightening measures, only 6%. And the credibility of official statements over the past month fell from 28% to 19%.
Distrust of people, of course, is not surprising. After the head of the Federal service for supervision of consumer rights protection and human welfare Anna Popova, known as “the chief physician of Russia”, that “10-12% of the conducted tests give a positive result”, chief editor of radio “Echo of Moscow” Alexei Venediktov critically remarked: “That is, per 100 million that is 10 million cases.” (According to yesterday’s official data, the total number of infected cases in the country has 317554 thousand.)
Russian opposition “Novaya Gazeta” and some Western publications (especially “financial times” (Financial Times) and “new York times” (New York Times)) wrote that the real number of deaths from the coronavirus in Russia can be 70% more than stated in the official statements. Oil poured into the fire and “Bloomberg” (Bloomberg). Full of enthusiasm for the opportunity to pounce on Moscow, the publication placed the strange headline: “Experts want to know why the coronavirus in Russia has killed more people?”. The Ministry of foreign Affairs of Russia on this occasion made a further condemnation in the West.
Along with assumptions about the concealment of the facts, there is another very important problem on the agenda: with the coronavirus again manifested major weaknesses of the Russian health system. Number of hospitals and potential patient care were insufficient. (2000-2015 during the “health care reform” the number of hospitals in the country, according to official data, has decreased by half — from 10.7 to 5.4 thousand thousand.) In recent months, has repeatedly raised the question of what doctors and other health workers working at low wages and insufficient provision of means of protection.
The Website “Zona.media” wrote that the Russian doctors in much greater numbers of sick and dying from covid-19 in comparison with other countries. While in the US doctors make of 0.48% of deaths in Russia this indicator is equal to 7%. At least 186 of Russian doctors has died of the coronavirus. (Total number of deaths from the coronavirus in Russia, announced yesterday, may 20, numbers 3099.) Despite the fact that President Putin announced the provision of financial assistance to health care workers, many of them have not received any additional payments, and scandal.
How Russia and the whole world will overcome coronavirus crisis is unknown. That will be for the Kremlin because of this uncertainty, only time will tell.